Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Trace It Back

A few weeks ago we looked at what we were thinking.   Did you do the exercise?  One of the biggest hurdles to change is passive living.  We go about our day without thinking why something triggered a negative response or emotion, or not even paying attention to how we engage with the world around us.  

Taking internal inventory is necessary to moving forward.   Having a mind full of good thoughts means you first must evaluate the reality of your thought life as well as what you want your thought life to be. When we talk internal inventory, we have to often look at why we do what we do.

You will often hear people give an onion metaphor.  Each layer reveals a new layer.  Or let's mix it up and go with my own metaphor - the artichoke.  Its work to eat an artichoke but can be fun (if you like them).  As you eat the meat of each leaf, you get closer to the heart of the artichoke, which is my favorite part.  Its tender and delicious!

That is a lot like life.  As we engage in internal inventory, we discover new or deeper parts of how something affected us and why we do what we do.

I have always worked on tackling my own issues because I don't want them to rule over me, but as I do so I discover new layers.

A recent reality tv show I was watching shared about the term "parentified child." I immediately paused the show and began searching articles online and immediately had an emotional moment.  The concept behind the term, "parentified child" wasn't new to me, but I hadn't seen some new layers as they were reflected back at me in the articles I read.  In my younger years as I peeled away the artichokes leaves of my life, I had a hard time really looking at certain issues without it hurting me, but as I have tackled the pain and how I defined myself along life, I have been able to step back and look at it with more of a clinical perspective and make the adjustments needed.  This time it hit a nerve and I was full of emotions.  I had to start asking questions.  You can do this too.  

1. Start with Your Senses - How did you feel? What did you see? Hear? Smell? Taste? Taking a tour through each of your senses can aid you in a full understanding of how a past experience impacted you.  It doesn't have to be some massive trauma.  Each of us are shaped by the world we walk through and understanding that allows us to see the connections in our current reality.  Understanding gives us the tools to recorrect where we need to in our current lives.  

My husband makes biscuits and gravy for our church men's group every Friday morning.  He always saves me some, but typically, I get them cold or reheated and not fresh from the oven.  One morning I was up early and I grabbed a biscuit fresh from the oven and I was transported back to the early elementary years when I lived with my grandpa.  We lost him several years ago, and just eating that hot biscuit gave me a moment with him again.  We don't often know what sticks with us, until we encounter something similar.  Going through your senses helps us to know how we have attached to the memories or moments in our past.  

2. Examine the Take-Away - Delving into the "parentified child" opened my eyes to my helping ways.  I am a Helper on the Enneagram.  I love serving people, and I do it out of the kindness of my heart.  I realized that I can go to an unheathly place in helping, when I neglect myself or my family for the sake of helping others.  I saw for the first time its roots in this new term.  

My mom is a wonderful mom, but we hit some hard road along the way when I was a girl and even though she masterfully cared for us, she often leaned on my as the oldest for emotional support.  I saw how I had a gap as a result.  Its no judgement on my mom, honestly, if I faced all she did as a single mom, I don't think I could have done half as well as she did, but we are humans after all.  I saw my years helping support my mom and sister kept me from checking in on me and learning where those boundary lines should be.  

3. Find the Balance - If you are learning from your life and asking the Holy Spirit to guide you as you go, you will find that you have probably walked too far down one side of the road and you must find the balance.  Doing the examination isn't unspiritual and its not living in the past, instead its learning from the past so you can move forward without bitterness or baggage.  I think most of us have areas we are stuck and these kind of reflections can get us unstuck.  

So what does all of this look like for you?  I'd love to hear from you.  God is good and he is good to guide us through our issues, if we let him.  He created us and knows us best, so I find letting him guide is best.  Happy Wednesday! Join me next week (also next month) for a whole new theme. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

What Are You Telling Yourself?

There are no shortage of bullies or bad guys in our world today, but it seems that the worst person to each of us, is ourselves.

Since we are talking about mindset this month, we would be remiss if we didn't address the word/thought connection (I don't know why but writing this made me start singing the "Rainbow Connection" in my head).  Our thoughts are often fueled by what we tell ourselves, whether it be silently or out loud.  It stands to reason that if we want our thoughts to change, our words need a makeover as well.  Yes, we can say encouraging things to help keep ourselves going, but far too often, we are the ones tearing ourself down.

If you did the exercise a few weeks ago, you may have been surprised by the thoughts you had.  How much of it was negative self-talk?

This year my son's school has had the theme, "Speak Life.''  (Psalm 19:14 (NIV) - "May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.")  He came home the first week of school excited to show me a video on YouTube.  He brought up the video for TobyMac's "Speak Life"  - and was so excited to show me how speaking good words helped us to be better people and help others.

The truth is, we are motivated by life giving words.  I'm sure this next sentence is repeat for me, but it needs to be said.  If we were the kind of friends to others that we are to ourselves, we would need new friends.

1. Ask yourself - If my best friend were in the same situation I were, what would I say to them?  We far too often give ourselves permission to belittle ourselves, when we would never speak to someone else in the same way.  So start by speaking to yourself, the way you would speak to a good friend.

2. Focus on your strengths - When your tempted to bully yourself and start a hyper focus fest on the ways in which you suck, take a moment to write down your strengths - the best things about you and begin to look at that.

If I've learned one thing from reading books from authors like Dr. Caroline Leaf or Carol Dweck its that the more you think something, the stronger that thought becomes and the strong thoughts are the "go-to" thoughts as we navigate in life.  So instead of focusing our thoughts on the negative, flip the script and focus on the best things.

If you don't know what your strengths are - gather your friends and ask them.  Take notes if you have to, but leave that time, knowing your best qualities.  Change the filter - you are awesome!

3. Praise God for You and Your Life - A thankful heart prepares the way for God.  Praising him and thanking him has amazing power to open our hearts to receive from God.  God created us, he knows us and honoring him and connecting with him only enhances how we live.

Go into your day with a beautiful view of you.  Next week we will get into the why, which I think is the last remaining piece in this topic discussion, so come on back! See you Wednesday!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Don't Should On Me

"Should" is a powerful word.  When one says, they "should" have done something, it is laced with regret, and when someone else says you "should" have, its often a form of judgement, leading to guilt.

When I was a girl, my mom was a part of a counseling program, that I got to participate in on occasion.  Several of the lessons that I learned in those sessions, have stayed with me through the years.  It was in one of those groups that I first came to understand the concept of triangulation, a term that helped me look for land mines in relationships later in life.

A mantra that birthed through those groups and became known to my own family was, "Don't Should On Me," as a reminder not to add judgement or regret to our lives. 

How many times a day do we "should" on ourselves?  Adding that kind of pressure whether its being said or the concept is taking over our thought life, is not healthy.  

Living in regrets and judgments doesn't boost our self-esteem, it doesn't boost performance, and it doesn't send our lives into a positive trajectory.  Honestly, it does the opposite. 

Yes, we all need to strive to be the best us possible, but in that aim, there is no room for perfection.  That process includes failure, something we can celebrate, because it means we are trying.  We aim up, with the knowledge that there is training and bumps along the way. 

American culture doesn't often leave room for hard work and the time it takes to meet goals.  We want it now and if it takes too long, we will find the short cut, but that isn't a benefit to us as humans. 

In 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay succeeded in climbing Mount Everest.  Even with the increase in success in recent years, of the 7.7 billion people on earth, only 800 attempt the task each year.  Out of all of those people (I used a calculator its 52,800 people) only 4,000 have succeeded as Hillary and Norgay in the years since.  Again with the aid of a calculator, I figure that means 48,800 of the people who attempted, failed - that is 92.4% of people failed.  

Those aren't good odds, that doesn't include the fact that its expensive, its time consuming, and its hard work.  So why do it? The experience, even failing, I'd imagine for those who attempt, is an amazing journey.  They learn about themselves, they challenge themselves and they become better people.  Its an endurance, long game experience.    

Life, like climbing Mount Everest, is a long game and we all need to pace ourselves, give some grace and continue along the way.  We march on learning and growing without the confines of a word like "should" because its worth it in the end.  

So give up the fake expectations and the distorted mirrors you've picked up along the way and be you.  Fight not only for the best version of you possible, but fight for the journey too! The Bible is full of commands but there is a reason love is number one.  

Jesus wants a relationship with us, where we are.  He wants to walk with us in the journey and guide us in the way we should go.  He loves us.  I think we'd all be better to take a page from his playbook and love ourselves a little more with patience and grace.  Stop the "should" fest and get up and go each day from where you are.   

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

What are YOU Thinking?

Have you ever paid attention to everything you think about in a given day?  Today, I offer you one simple exercise.

Take note for one hour (I would suggest at different times) each day for a week about the thoughts that went through your head.  You don't have to share them with others, but it might be helpful to check out any patterns you have.

What do you think about?

How do you think about or think through life situations? 

Did you have a negative or positive thought process to life as it happened? 

Were you surprised by how much you thought about certain things?

If you were to put them in categories, how many thought categories do you have?

What were the thoughts you didn't like? 

What were the thoughts you loved? 

What else stuck out to you in this exercise?  

Most of us want to change, yet few of us actually do anything about it, and I believe its because we aren't willing to do the internal inventory and discover where we truly are in life.  

Taking inventory of your thoughts, helps you to see where you are.  When you decide what you want from life, then retraining your thought life can help you to get there.  If you want to know more about this, then go grab a book by Dr. Caroline Leaf.  

As you take inventory above, I would also ask the question: 

What thoughts do I want in my brain?  

If you didn't like the way you thought about life or yourself or you found yourself stuck in a negative mental cycle, what would you want to replace it with?  

This month on mindset, really is important because how we think about our life is one of the most important building blocks for changing words and actions.  There is so much out of our control, but if we focus solely on that, we can miss what we do have control over.  That is where our time and thoughts should be spent.  

I'd love to hear how this went for you! Happy Wednesday! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Mindset Matters

You can thank Dr. Caroline Leaf for our theme this month, because I've been reading her book and watching videos of her talks and I felt inspired to focus this month on Mindset.  Our mindset in life is so important. The mind is where life starts, yet so often we trip mindlessly through life, unaware of what we are thinking.

The New Kings James version of Psalm 23:7 says, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." Other versions say a man thinks first the cost.  Regardless of the version, the focus in on our thoughts.  What we do and say comes from what we think.

2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV) tells us, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

Bad thoughts lead to self-doubt, depression, anxiety (and the list goes on).  Letting them run free can lead us down a bad path.  Thoughts are important!  If I didn't already know that in life, Dr. Caroline Leaf has hit that point home with true precision backed by her work in the field of cognitive neurology.

So here it is, here is what I've learned from her.  If you want things to change in your life, you start with your thoughts and it takes 3, 21 day cycles of intentional thought (7-16 minutes a day) to create a thought strong enough to make its way into our conscious mind and life.  It is work!  But its worth it!!!!! 

I asked God, what thought I should first work on.  I suspected it would be my anger.  I am over losing my temper, but I was wrong.  God told me it was my motherhood that needs to be addressed first.  That's ironic for May and Mother's Day, right?! As I thought about it I realized, how off track I was.  I get annoyed at my kids when they disrupt what I am doing.  I get agitated when they aren't moving as quickly as I need them to be when we have to get going.  Those things are understandable because well motherhood is hard, and trust me, I have NO JUDGEMENT for all you moms out there.  I get it! I just realized I was looking at it wrong.  

A month ago I was sitting in an ER with my baby on tubes worried I was going to lose my little girl, if that isn't a wake up call, I'm not sure what is.  These kids in my home are a gift, and unless we are talking about my 33 year old, special needs step daughter, who gets older but lives the same life every day and every year, my kids will grow up quickly and be gone before I know it.  Eighteen years in the scheme of life are quick. I will spend more time at home without kids than I will with kids.  They spend more time out of my home than in it, and I want to maximize those years.  

I can't live in some perfectionistic mindset with my kids because I have and will screw up when it comes to being a mom, but I can cherish the moments I have with them, and that is my focus in this process.  

Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." We help each other in our encounters with one another to become better people.  We can learn to be more Christ like when we are challenged by human interaction.  That was quite the lesson when I said, "I do," thirteen years ago.  Marriage is the perfect place to understand this verse because becoming better is painful as you work in relationships, especially when you have cemented your life to another flawed human.  

Well, parenting is just another step in the process.  I want to be the best version of me possible.  I want to allow God to refine my places of pride and selfishness.  I get to practice putting someone else needs above my own.  

At the end of the day, I can get frustrated that my kids are interrupting that tv show I want to watch or  I can cherish the moment to be with them.  I understand things need to get done and we can't spend every waking hour playing with the kids, but I admit there are lots of moments when selfish me just doesn't want to do the mom stuff, I just want to be left alone. In those moments, I realize I need a mental shift. 

So here I am day 7 into my first round of 21 days, with a few months to go in replacing thoughts.  
Then I will figure out the next thought pattern I need to change and work on that for 63 days.  

Too many of us are guilty of sharing a daily encouragement with a friend or even ourselves and thinking it will inspire change, but don't be fooled, its not that simple. If it were, no one would have any issues in life.  It takes daily attention for 63 days, according to Dr. Caroline Leaf.  Let give our thoughts the respect, time and attention they need! 

What thoughts do you need to change?  Ask God to reveal your first thought.  Check out this video series if you want to learn more. (Note: I just linked video 1, but there are 3 others that you can watch after it.) Check back in next week for more on mindset!!!